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Obesity Is Officially the Biggest Welfare Concern Facing Greedy Pets in the UK

19/05/2014 17:07 BST | Updated 19/07/2014 10:59 BST

The PDSA estimate that as many as two and a half million dogs (one in three) as well as two million cats (one in four) in the UK are overweight.

With more than three-quarters of vets in the country offering obesity clinics this is far from hard to believe.

The report includes a survey of dog owners where nine out of ten admit to feeding high calorie human foods including take-aways, biscuits, chips and even alcohol to pets.

Why is the health of your pet important?

Pet obesity is essentially a slow killer of pets but a poor diet and lack of exercise can reduce their lifespan by as much as two years.

More importantly a new Pet Food Manufacturers' Association report has warned that with a rise in obesity-related claims, some pet insurance firms are considering cutting payouts for fat pets.

I have witnessed an increasing number of dogs that are fed too much and walked too little - particularly over the winter months.

At my surgery in Bristol three out of five (60%) dogs visiting the surgery between the winter months of October 2013 and February 2014 had gained weight, compared to just two out of five (40%) the previous year.

With the weather showing signs of improvement use this to kick-start your pets health campaign.

Otherwise it could soon be your wallet that is feeling stretched.

Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers:

Your dog does not need a treat every day

Most people aren't aware that popular dog treats contain up to 150 calories, but the average 10kg dog requires just 400 kilocalories per day.

As the treats are only small many owners admit to handing out four or six a day which rapidly contributes to their daily calorie recommendation.

Instead of dog snacks try use non fattening treats for good behaviour like celery or other vegetables.

Walk your dog for five miles each day

I hear many excuses from owners for not walking dogs regularly - but we are responsible for our pets and time needs to be made to meet their requirements.

Most owners will also only walk for three miles a day, many walking for a lot less than that, burning only 90 calories per walk. For a well behaved dog enjoying a daily treat this is simply not far enough.

A study has shown that on a brisk walk a dog will expend approximately three calories/kg/mile - so the average dog will expend 30 calories per mile.

The positive effect of exercise on the mental wellbeing of your dog is also underestimated. Exercise ensures that our "working" dogs have something to do. A lack of exercise results in boredom which in turn can lead to barking, phobias and aggression.

How to work out how far your dog should walk

To work off the waistline that has built up over the winter you should be aiming to walk a 10kg dog for at least three - five miles each day.

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

The best way to do this yourself is to stand above your dog and look down on them. You should see a waistline and be able to feel the ribs (easily!), but not see them.

It is important to keep dogs a healthy weight as this decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and other common problems such as diabetes in later life.

Want to walk but don't own a dog?

Try signing up for websites like www.borrowmydoggy.com or contacting your local pet rescue centre.